Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Love And Mercy Movie Reviews (Part One)

We received a few reviews after the opening this past weekend of the new Brian Wilson biopic "Love And Mercy".  Some of those that we spoke with closest to the topic (and the man) have requested a bit more time to fully formulate their thoughts on this before committing them to print.  (These include former Beach Boys Manager Fred Vail, former Beach Boys Band Member Billy Hinsche, Denny Tedesco, creator of "The Wrecking Crew" documentary whose father, Tommy Tedesco, played on any number of Beach Boys tracks back in the day, and David Beard, publisher of "Endless Summer Quarterly", the "go to" publication for all things Beach Boys and Brian Wilson related.)  All said they were "still digesting" the film ... and we can respect that ... it's a lot to process ... especially at that level. 

Meanwhile, here are a few comments that DID make it through ...   

Kent -
Weighing in on the new Brian biopic ...
Don’t we all love filmmakers who are willing to take risks? For example, Martin Scorcese's epic "Raging Bull" might have been just another burned out fight film if Scorcese hadn't recognized the layers of Jake LaMotta's conflicted personality that he recognized Robert DeNiro was capable of bringing to the wide screen.Thus, I congratulate Bill Pohldad for his courageous approach to "Love and Mercy", the biopic that explores the tormented genius of Brian Wilson. It is a bona fide four star flick. No, this is not about French bikinis or northern girls who keep their boyfriends warm at night.Here's the issue. I have no doubt that many of your Forgotten Hits readers could be considered experts on the torment, strife, jealousy and unmatched harmony that was so much a part of The Beach Boys. Really how many F.H. regulars can still sing deep cuts like Cherry, Coupe, Check My Custom Machine or Salt Lake City in a So Cal heartbeat.In other words, we expect that a childlike Mike Love will be disgusted with Brian for daring to deviate from surf, sun and 409's to turn out the brilliance of "Pet Sounds". Love could never admit that Wilson made him.Many of us know just exactly who Van Dyke Parks happens to be. However, to the uninitiated, his name is never mentioned during his brief appearance. It's easy for long time fans of America's greatest rock 'n roll band to recognize Van Dyke and the bond he enjoys with Brian.  However, I would guess this sequence would leave many 25 year old kids asking, "What the bleep?"Trust me, when you see the film you will know exactly when "God Only Knows" and  "Good Vibrations" are going to emerge.Brian Wilson sorely lacked validation. He feared finishing "second' to the Beatles. His heart is broken when his father, Murray, scoffs at "God Only Knows". However, his heart is left rendered beyond repair when the old man sells his publishing for a mere $750,000.  The money meant nothing to Brian. The catalogue was his reason for living.Paul Dano absolutely shines as the young Brian, interacting with his brothers and the fabled "Wrecking Crew." Conversely, John Cusak struck out. He simply never convinced me that he was Wilson in his 30's living under the iron-fisted cruelty of Eugene Landy, the noted shrink whose sole intent seemed to be the destruction or, perhaps, ownership of Brian's soul. He can best be described as listless.  
Paul Giamatti doesn't swerve too far from his role as the campaign manager in the George Clooney flick, "Ides of March." In other words, you hate his guts but you recognize he was made to play the role of the screwed up Landy.The scene that breaks your heart: Murray Wilson busting in to a recording session to boast about his new band, the long forgotten Sunrays. While Brian seeks only approval, Murray takes dead aim at his oldest son screaming about just how big the Sunrays are going to be and offers up additional criticism in regards to Brian's evolving musical approach. The sequence is a full blown tear jerker.
In some regards I was letdown by the film ... however, I appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the project,  Which is to say, I loved the film, but I can’t recommend it unless F.H. readers truly understand the roller coaster existence of the Beach Boys. Just knowing "Surfer Girl" or "Sloop John B" won't make this film resonate for the average viewer.Yet, congrats to Bill Pohlad for sparing us cliches to bring forth a superb piece of cinematography. Much like Clint Eastwood's presentation of "Jersey Boys", Polhdad demands that we think, explore and grasp a man who gave us tunes we will never forget - at a terrible and misplaced price.I love Brian Wilson the songwriter. I treasure Brian Wilson the man for somehow surviving far more obstacles than any human should ever have to confront. Some years back I read a  stunning quote from Brian in response to what he might like to change about his life. You talk about eyebrow raising, Wilson simply said he would have changed the tempo on "California Girls."Strange? Perhaps. But if you're Brian Wilson something that simple, so outwardly meaningless, could mean everything.Chet Coppock
Host: Chicago Blackhawks Heritage Series
There are a number of images we all take with us when remembering the "Brian in bed" phase of his career.  The Beach Boys did, in fact, carry on without him as best the could ... and developed into better, stronger songwriters in the process.  Remarkably the whole "Brian Is Back" campaign was missing in its entirety from this film ... but this was a crucial turning part in regards to Brian Wilson's healing process.  (kk)
You're right ... you know what was missing ... Brian with a beard wearing his blue robe!  (Chet)
Yes!  And it would have been cool to see Belushi and Aykroyd come in in police uniforms and drag him off to surf!  (lol)  There is VERY little humor displayed in this film ... and Brian had a GREAT love of humor.  An in-depth profile of this public a figure really should have explored more sides and layers as to what made up the man.  (You'll see some of this discussed in my review of the film, tomorrow in Forgotten Hits.)  kk

Just back from seeing Love and Mercy, the Brian Wilson bio-pic. First let me say that I have seen the Beach Boys eight times in person. I am a huge fan. I have read pretty much every book or article about Brian Wilson and his demons. I love the music. It is a sound track of my life. The movie is brilliant and what makes it so good is the way the story shifts between the two main characters playing Brian. Paul Dano is Oscar worthy and his scenes in the studio crafting "Pet Sounds" are as real as you can get. The big surprise is how good John Cusack plays the older Brian. He is believable which is the part I did not expect. Elizabeth Banks is terrific and it wouldn't surprise me if she gets some nominations at award season. I can't recommend this movie enough. It deserves all the great reviews it is getting around the country. 
Mark / GoHawksGo   

Here is an interesting perspective on Love & Mercy: "A story about a lifelong struggle to survive the heroes and villains that dominated Brian Wilson's life." See blog post here >>>
Sadly, the heroes in Brian's life (Murry Wilson, who secured a Capitol Records recording contract that launched the Beach Boys' career and banged on doors to get their singles played; Mike Love. who penned brilliant lyrics that captured the ear of the nation; Eugene Landy, who twice pulled Brian from the brink back to health) were also villains (publishing rights sold, resistance and ridicule to new musical approaches, control that became unethical and illegal).
My perspective:  Brian's faith in love and mercy, God's to us and ours to others, saved his life and now, through his courageous revelations in the biopic of his struggle, he may be a hero to many who are fighting their own villains.

Just saw Love And Mercy.  The scenes with the younger Brian Wilson during the Pet Sounds sessions with the Wrecking Crew were amazing.
Phil - WRCO 

re:  The Wrecking Crew:
FH Reader Tom Cuddy sent us this recent LA Weekly article about Carol Kaye, one of the key players in The Wrecking Crew.  (Just don't call it that in front of her!!!)
Kaye has been VERY vocal since the Denny Tedesco Documentary first started making the rounds on the film festival circuit a few years ago ... and is back in the news now that the home DVD version is about to be released.
She has long criticized Drummer Hal Blaine for capitalizing on the success of these musicians (and coming up with The Wrecking Crew name some time after the sessions had stopped.)
She feels she's been misrepresented in print, in the documentary and even in the new Brian Wilson biopic "Love And Mercy" ... apparently repeatedly duped (in her words) to tell her story, only to then have that story distorted and manipulated in the press.
Here's an update that recently ran in LA Weekly which, by the time YOU read it, will most likely also come under fire!  (kk)
Hey Kent,   
On Saturday, you featured the Super Charts survey from June 11, 1966. Coming in at number 42, was "Sloop John B", by The Beach Boys. My brother Jim and I were (and still are) fans of the Kingston Trio and The Beach Boys. The song, from the trio's first album was titled "(The Wreck of the) John B". When we first played the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds", and heard the song on the last cut of side one, we were confused why Brian Wilson would have included it, but glad he did. It was Al Jardine, a fan of the trio, who took the song to Brian, but Wilson was not a fan of the KT boys, or any folk music, for that matter. Al suggested changing some major chords to minor ones, and Brian ran with it. When Wilson auditioned the guys to sing lead vocals, he decided that HE would sing two versus, Mike Love would sing the other, but not Al. (Now, that's gratitude for ya.) The original title of the song is "The John B. Sails". It is a tradtional folk song from the Bahamas. The trio's Nick Reynolds played the conga drum on the their recording, giving it a Calypso connection. As much as I like Brian Wilson's arrangement, with all that great guitar work and vocal harmony, I wish he would have included a background conga, and even better, if Nick could have played it! On the "Pet Sounds" track, it is interesting that the tempo jumps to cut (or double) time on the last verse. I have read many interpretations of the meaning of the lyrics, from it being a slave-trade song to Brian tripping out on a boat, doing LSD with the Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (Can you believe that one?)! After all, Wilson did change one of the lyrics from "This is the worst trip, since I've been born", to " I've ever been on". "I feel so break up" became "broke up". One time, I heard the crooner, John Gary, sing it, "I feel so broken up" on his TV show. Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that the "John B" was a boat that ferried folks and their luggage from one island to another in the Bahamas, and had a very unruly crew, especially when the captain was away. What I haven't been able to find was who the boat was named after. I read where one guy said it was named after poet, John Berryman, who liked to sail. Wrong; it was composed before his time. There were a couple of historic US Navy captains, John B. Hopkins, who was in service during the American Revolution, and John B. Montgomery, who served during the Mexican-American War. I just don't know the answer to this one.
- John LaPuzza
I remember Jimmie Rodgers (of "Honeycomb" fame) cutting a minor hit version of this tune, too, shortly before The Beach Boys took their crack at it.  Story goes that Capitol Record INSISTED it be included on the "Pet Sounds" album simply because they didn't hear a single in the final mix.  (Ironically, "Sloop John B", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "God Only Knows" and "Caroline, No" ALL made The National Top 40 when released from this "dud of an album" that Capitol Records didn't know what to do with.  Incredible to believe, even all these years later, that with "Pet Sounds" at #10 Capitol released the first Beach Boys Greatest Hits LP to compete with it ... and "give the fans what they really wanted" instead of this new mish-mosh of sounds.  Perhaps "incredible stupidity" is a better description of this decision.  (kk)

Catch OUR review of "Love And Mercy" tomorrow in Forgotten Hits! (kk)